John The Baptist Made the Way Straight
In order to understand clearly the work of John the Baptist, we should pause here and do another exercise in memory. Let’s think about what we have heard from all the prophets.
We learned from Noah’s experiences that the sinful condition of man grieves the heart of God and causes just condemnation to fall upon man. We learned that, just as people could not save themselves from the flood, so are they unable to save themselves from the judgment which is to come. Yet God, in His love and concern, provided a way for His creation to be saved.
We learned from Abraham’s experiences that God requires obedience. We gained a greater understanding of the meaning of sacrifice. We found that God Himself provided a noble sacrifice as a substitute for the son of Abraham. Then we heard how God spoke through the great prophet Moses, explaining His plan to deliver and guide His people. Moses directed that a Iamb be killed for each household and blood put on every door. This provided an example of the place of sacrifice in deliverance from bondage. Later, Moses received from God complete instructions for worship and sacrifice. In this way everyone could understand the nature of sin and redemption. Also, through Moses God established the importance of His Word. It is by reading the Word that we can continue to learn all truth.
The prophet David taught us something more about guilt, repentance, and sacrifice. From him we received the special message that God wants more from people than the blood of animals.
“It is not the burnt offering which pleases you, God,” David cried out from a penitent soul. “The sacrifice which you desire is a broken and contrite heart.” So David cast himself upon the mercy of God, admitting his sin and asking forgiveness.
Finally, in our last lesson we found from the messages of Isaiah that no religious act, not even sincere repentance, can cleanse us from sin. Isaiah revealed to us the complete truth. It is this: Sacrifice is necessary, but the blood of animals is not enough. As we have learned in previous lessons, the animal sacrifices were a picture to remind people of the day when God would send the perfect sacrifice, a Redeemer, who would suffer for the sins of all mankind. This would make it possible for everyone to receive forgiveness and mercy from God. However, Isaiah let us know that it is necessary for people to choose for themselves to repent and accept the sacrifice which God provides. With God there is no force. He desires that man accept Him and His provisions willingly, out of love. Remember Isaiah’s great invitation. Perhaps you can quote from it:
Seek the Lord while He may be found . . .
Let the wicked forsake his way . . .
Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon.
God inspired Isaiah to say these words. We can see from this that God wanted the people to recognize their opportunity to receive pardon. Since He promised them that He would send a true Redeemer, He would also make a way for them to recognize the Redeemer when He appeared. That is why He sent John the Baptist to make the way straight, or in other words, clear and plain.
We notice that the words of John were very similar to those of Isaiah. He warned the people to flee from wickedness, to repent, and to turn to God in order to be forgiven. The work of John was to summarize, or bring to a climax, the work and words of all the prophets before him. He would do this by introducing the One who came to fulfill all prophecies. This is why John is called the confirmer. We see, then, how he fits into the plan of God, and why we should listen closely to his words.